Sheep industry confidence suffering

27 Sep, 2012 02:00 AM
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LIVE sheep exporters say there is no certainty that issues of the last fortnight will not happen again, following the issue of permits for shipments to recommence to the Middle East this week.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) issued permits last Monday for three exporters for 190,000 sheep and 400 cattle to be exported to the Middle East.

But WA Live Exporters Association (WALEA) chairman John Edwards said while the permits were welcomed it didn't mean the industry was exactly back on track.

"It is a shipment-by-shipment and a market-by-market scenario at the moment," Mr Edwards said.

The three companies with permits are believed to be Wellard Rural Exports, Emanuel Exports and Livestock Shipping Services.

Th go-ahead came amid reports that there were 300,000 sheep caught up on farms or in exporter feedlots as a result of the delays and that it would take a long time to work through the backlog.

Mr Edwards said it would take time for the industry to get back on its feet.

"While the permits are good news it doesn't alleviate the issue which is before industry for both producers and exporters," he said.

"There are large numbers of sheep on farms in export condition and numbers add to that position day-by-day as we move forward.

"Shipping approvals today (Monday) doesn't necessarily alleviate next month's problems in terms of a backlog building because it is all about shipping availability and vessels available.

"Only a fraction of those 300,000 sheep will get shifted over the next couple of months."

During the delay in shipments, Mr Edwards said animal welfare issues could have arisen on-farms as farmers, particularly in the Wheatbelt, waited for rain.

He said the Federal Government did not fully understand the impact stopping "a few live export boats" had on the entire industry.

"We need to start looking at the food security issues for a lot of these markets," he said.

"These markets are highly dependent on live Australian sheep.

"There are commercial and political concerns which need to be dealt with.

"We need a government that understands our industry far far better than it currently does and the difficultly of trading live animals or perishable products overseas."

Mr Edwards said the issue in the future would be trying to keep confidence in the sheep industry.

This was not only applied to farmers but also exporters as the companies dealt with government interference in commercial issues.

"It is about declining prices and the viability of the sheep industry after we have busted our backside for the last two years to try and encourage farmers back into sheep," he said.

"It is a confidence thing in the sheep industry now - for the whole industry."

In a statement DAFF said the approvals were granted only after exporting companies were able to assure it that additional animal health and welfare safeguards were in place.

It said exporters must now:

p provide more detail about what they would do if a shipment is delayed or refused unloading

p carry additional feed, water and veterinary supplies to cover the possibility of diversions and delays

p engage additional stock handlers

Wellard Rural Exports confirmed that it had received a permit from DAFF to export 65,000 sheep to Qatar.

Wellard managing director Mauro Balzarini said the company was disappointed with the delay in issuing the export permit and the view that everything that relates to sheep export was perceived as "risky".

"These sheep are bound for Qatar, a market which we have been supplying for almost 25 years without incident," he said.

"Qatar readily embraced the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) and has adhered to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) when tested successfully in the past.

"Nevertheless, Wellard has worked with DAFF to achieve a solution to this impasse and to allow live exports to continue to provide an important marketing option for Australian farmers and to provide consumers in the Middle East with a safe, healthy, sustainable supply of fresh meat."

Emanuel Exports managing director Graham Daws said he was disappointed in how the Federal Government had handled the whole process.

Mr Daws said it took far too long to issue the permits and cost exporters tens of thousands of dollars.

In addition he said the new conditions would not impact on the condition of the animals.

"There is already a comprehensive and rigorous system with animals from the start to the finish in place," Mr Daws said.

"Having additional conditions imposed just shows that the regulator really doesn't seem to have any faith in their system, even though we know it is working satisfactorily."

Mr Daws said the fact Kuwait had processed the sheep which had been diverted from Bahrain showed it was an over-reaction to the publicity surrounding what had happened.

"The prolonged delay for issuing permits has rocked the confidence of importers as to whether Australia is really serious about the continuity of this business and whether it can be relied upon in the future," he said.

Rumours that prices for sheep contracts signed prior to the delay had been lowered were refuted by Mr Daws.

He said he couldn't speak on behalf of the whole industry but believed all existing contracts would have been honoured.

But he admitted anything which was purchased from now on would be at current market value which was far below the previous contract prices.

"If this industry does not have continuity there will be a collapse in price like we have just seen and it will get even worse when the spring lambs come along," he said.

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READER COMMENTS

live export is in death throes
27/09/2012 7:32:40 AM, on Farm Weekly

Do exporters ever stop whinging? Their trade in sentient souls is dependent on the whims of their buyers overseas, so of course at any moment a shipment can be turned away. There will be more incidents of that you can all be sure. Given Wellard and LSS have bough slaughterhouses in WA, the writing is on the wall. Suggest farmers read it and change direction.
Rosemary Marshall
28/09/2012 9:19:15 AM, on Farm Weekly

Why oh why do farmers indulge in this medieval trade when we have refrigerated lorries to carry carcases. Carcases cannot suffer, jobs in Australia are maintained, so what can be the point of this inane attitude?
Paul Wilson
28/09/2012 2:40:06 PM, on Farm Weekly

Rosemary, there are a number of issues to understand... True there is infrastructure in place for chilled/frozen meat, but not all households over there have it - there is still a lower class. Many Australians don't want to work in abattoirs. Have you, or would you? would you let your kids, your grand kids? Some abattoirs have had to employ foreign employees. Live Export also provides competition in the market. You musn't know of the days in WA when sheep were sold for $1 per head!
Tony B
29/09/2012 6:51:22 AM, on Farm Weekly

Mr Edwards of WA Live Exports Association said "it would take time for the industry to get back on its feet". Don't these people ever give up? Obviously there's a lot of money at stake, despite the atrocities and all the disasters of the trade. Once something has proved over and over again to be contrary to any humane animal welfare standards, and to be shameful to our nation, it must end. These people have blood on their hands and should get a grip on reality. "Jobs" and "economic benefits" are turning those in this industry into criminals, guilty of animal abuse.
Cattle Advocate
5/10/2012 4:52:34 AM, on Farm Weekly

BLE's latest attack on our livestock industries is history repeating itself,in the past BLE used its absolute power to impose a stand-over ban while preaching the same chapter and verse sermon as today, that was high on hysteria but short on shekels. The ban was broken after a city Servo owner noticed an abnormally large number of farm utes coming to town early 1 morning, 2 ports 160kms apart were used. At 1 large gathering of parties with varying interests, just 1 friendly policeman occupied no-mans-land. Today; BLE's langauge might be more high-brow but the standovers havent changed.
Cattle Advocate
5/10/2012 5:08:06 AM, on Farm Weekly

AA Sept 2012 '' in the year since AA's investigation in Indonesia aired on 4 corners new regulations have meant live exports have become more difficult and that fewer animals are being sent.'' AA '' I feel a sense of outrage when the government says this system is working when its up to a small charity to be the watchdog of a government-endorsed multi-million-dollar industry'' The greens Sept 2012 '' We can create 10,s of 1000s of jobs in regional Australia by processing the meat in our country'' The Body Shop Sept 2012 '' We know there are alternatives to live export ''
Cattle Advocate
5/10/2012 5:27:00 AM, on Farm Weekly

In 2011 the offer to show JBS, BLE's process locally plan was met with silence, what is VALE's plan to open abattoirs in Australia and does it cost $200,000 pa to have just 1 Vet in an Australian abattoir? Will VALE's abattoirs be internationally competative? What is Vale's position on the 60,000 TE calves that have been savagely butchered by wild dogs from national parks? No one from BLE seems interested in this injustice. While BLE continues to chase media headlines, why havent we seen a plan for our 100,000 unwanted LE cattle and can a ' small charity ' command lawyers by the dozen?
Cattle Advocate
5/10/2012 5:43:57 AM, on Farm Weekly

From the 4/10/2012 Canada will start exporting sheep and goats to Qatar, it already exports cattle there. Their minister for Ag ''Live exports create jobs, prosperity and economic growth in Canada. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait constitute one of the world's weathiest associations of counties, I will continue to create more live export opportunities there for Canadian livestock''' What does the knowledgeable member for Wills think of this and the future of our Aus-NZ live dairy exports? Just parroting worn out giggles isnt getting us anywhere.

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